Restoring the films of Gerard Damiano Sr. - The Journey Continues
My sister Christar and I decided the best way to honor our father, acclaimed adult film director Gerard Damiano, would be to restore his best films and complete his biography. On Father’s Day 2015, I began this blog to document the journey. Now a full year has passed, and although the blog had fallen silent for a time, the journey continues. We felt that the best way to tell his story would be using his own words and the words of those that worked together with him. I teamed up with Larry Revene, one of the most highly regarded cinematographers of the genre. He had shot a number of my father’s films in the late 70s and early 80s.
Larry and I had met on the set of “Throat: 12 Years After” more than 30 years before. Together we formed the “Crew of 2” and set out on the road to track down the surviving “Legends of The Golden Age of Porn” and film interviews with them. We left New York City with all of our gear packed into the 2006 Toyota Corolla that my father and I had bought together before he died.
Our first stop was Newport, Kentucky to meet up with legendary burlesque dancer turned porn star, Annette Heinz. Then it was on to Hollywood to meet the “Goddess of the Golden Age” Georgina Spelvin, star of “The Devil in Miss Jones”. We travelled through California, filming porn stars in sleazy motel rooms (a cliché in itself). At first, I was writing blog posts about each encounter, but as we continued, the adventures came so hard and fast that I couldn’t keep up. Larry did most of the driving while I navigated, worked the phone, and planned the next move. As we drove from one destination to the next trying to track people down along the way, often not knowing where we were going to be the next day, or where we were going to sleep that night.
We sometimes shot two interviews in a day and I found myself preparing questions in the car and literally watching films as we drove. It was all we could do to be in the moment, while planning for the next. After about a dozen posts I quickly fell behind. I don’t understand how some of these bloggers do it.
How do you live your life and write about it at the same time?
By the time we got back to New York we had driven nearly 10,000 miles across 17 states and filmed more than 20 interviews with some of the most important figures of the era. With all the new information that we discovered, I found that the story was much bigger, and the project much broader in scope than I had initially thought. Our adventures on the road were a story in itself. The new material that we shot was enough to produce a short subject on each film. Between the research for the book, the restoration of 10 films, and all the new media that was generated, I was overwhelmed by the enormity of the project. Having fallen more than a dozen posts behind, even the blog added to the weight. It would be easy to lose myself in all this material. Plus, I still had a day job. Real-world obligations and the necessity to raise funds to continue became a priority.
I saw the importance of finishing the book. The over-arching story of my father’s life could provide the framework which gives context to the films and other related projects. I brought in some research assistants to help me digest the vast archive of personal writings, press, and film memorabilia that my father had left. But it is a long and painstaking process. Nearly 8 years have passed since my father’s death, and I am anxious to get his films out there to be seen as he had intended. My sister and I have decided to cut to the chase and focus on releasing what our father considered to be his best film. “The Story of Joanna”.
“The Story of Joanna” was his dark S/M opus, produced in 1975 at the height of “Porno Chic”. It starred Terry Hall as Joanna, and Jamie Gillis in a role that was tailor made for him. Critics called it “Damiano’s Masterpiece”. The film has not been seen in its original form since the 1970s. It came up often during our interviews across America. When we spoke with Joáo Fernandes, the cinematographer for the film — who had previously shot Deep Throat, The Devil in Miss Jones and Memories within Miss Aggie— he agreed that it was the best work that he had done for my father, perhaps the best work of his adult film career. Annie Sprinkle was NOT in The Story of Joanna, but she confessed to me that as my father’s mistress, she was on set and had a lot of behind-the-scenes stories about the film. One of the last interviews that Larry and I shot together was of Juliet Graham, the last surviving cast member, who had some surprising revelations, not least of all about Jamie Gillis.
As the development of the book continues, I will attempt to finish some of the missing posts about the galaxy of stars that Larry and I encountered during our odyssey across America. Their stories were always surprising and often revealing. Our father may always be remembered for Deep Throat, but he would have preferred to be known for The Story of Joanna. Christar and I hope to screen the restored version of the film in New York City by year’s end.
Gerard Damiano Jr.
Queens, New York, Father’s Day, 2016
To be continued…